Death is unavoidable.
That’s a pretty dark way to start a post isn’t it? A hell of a way to start a Monday morning off. But fear not my intrepid readers, I’m speaking on literary death and not reality (although some would argue the influence one has on the other).
Since probably the beginning, when written word that was constructed for fictional story-telling was created, the notion of life and death in some capacity was a part of the tale. Legends usually told of a hero who would navigate some incredibly difficult challenge and meet their foe at the end, usually ending it with their death; the world has become quite different since then, but this idea hasn’t.
My recent fascination with character death came through a conversation with a friend on Game of Thrones. Something that needs no introduction as it’s currently one of the popular television shows on right now. We were comparing the differences between the show and the books (he had only seen the show and not read the books and I was vice versa) and one part we both gasped at was the death of Ned Stark in the first book/first season. I remember actually gasping out loud when I was reading it, being so sure that he would somehow find a way out of the execution. But he didn’t and that death surprised me.
But why did it surprise me?
The idea of readers feeling some type of real emotion over the death of a fictional character, on the surface, should seem silly right? There technically isn’t any real consequence to it. Their actions don’t impede my very literal progress in the world as I go about my daily routine. It’s not like I found myself unable to make it to work the next day after reading A Game of Thrones; and yet we still find ourselves unexplainably attracted to the narratives provided in the media we consume.
There’s truth to the idea of our time investment rivaling the journey experienced by the situations we read/watch them go through; especially if there is some personal connection we feel to either the story or that particular character. It is with this notion that I believe authors really have a dilemma in death (look at me referencing my title). Death should mean something and shouldn’t be callously written in just for the sake of adding spice to the story like an overcooked meal in an attempt to save it.
My favorite stories that included death of some kind impacted me heavily; and the choices of character death were done for a specific reason that propelled the narrative forward. In an effort not to turn this into a 1500 word post, I’ll speak on what those stories are next week in Part 2!
Until next time.